One of life’s great mysteries is why something that’s experienced regularly by half of the population is still considered by many to be a taboo topic. 

For a lot of us, from the moment we learned about menstruation, it was treated as something to hide. Instead of talking openly about it, we’ll use phrases like “Aunt Flo coming to town” or “that time of the month” to talk about periods. 

This natural biological process, experienced by billions around the world, has been discussed with shame and secrecy for so long that even the Smithsonian Institute admits that their collection doesn’t contain many menstrual products from the past, reflecting society’s general embarrassment of the topic. 

“This discomfort is especially apparent in our continued reliance on the euphemism “feminine hygiene,” a term which we often use to discuss products associated with menstruation, genital cleanliness, and contraception. Use of this euphemism allows us to avoid any direct reference to female anatomy.” - Smithsonian Institute

Tampons on shelf
Getty Images/Canva

However, that idea is starting to change - at least when it comes to New York State law. 

Two Terms Now Banned In New York State Law

Last month, Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law a ban on terms like “sanitary napkin” and “feminine hygiene products” in current and future New York State legislation. Instead, the outdated phrases are now replaced with the term “menstrual products.”

State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud, who co-sponsored the bill, said in a statement, 

“This bill recognizes the simple reality that menstruation is not dirty, but rather a natural bodily function. In so doing, we take another step in lifting the stigma, combating period poverty, and ensuring equal dignity for all individuals who menstruate throughout New York.”

pads and tampons

Currently, menstrual products are mentioned in New York State laws that require them to be available for free in public schools and correctional facilities, required ingredient labeling on their packaging, and the abolishment of state sales tax when buying them. 

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Even though the new law doesn’t affect most people at all (it really will only pertain to lawmakers), it’s still a symbolic step in the right direction. Getting rid of those cringy terms in New York legislation is a small way to work on reversing the idea that periods are unsanitary and dirty, and that’s a relief to the 50% of people who experience them every month.

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